Alisa Weilerstein’s Newest Album: Shostakovich Cello Concertos

It’s always fascinating to consider musical lineage. Great musicians pass along ideas about a given piece to their students based on what they were taught. Eventually, the line runs back to the performer who premiered the music and worked directly with the composer. We get a sense of this lineage with Alisa Weilerstein’s new recording of Dmitri Shostakovich’s two Cello Concertos. Shostakovich wrote both concertos for Mstislav Rostropovich, with whom Weilerstein studied. She talks about …

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Brahms’ “Tiny” Second Piano Concerto

I have written a tiny little piano concerto with a tiny little wisp of a scherzo. This is what Johannes Brahms wrote, jokingly, following the completion of his Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major. In reality, he had composed one of the most monumental piano concertos ever imagined- a concerto set in four movements rather than the customary three, which unfolds as a virtual symphony for piano and orchestra instead of the …

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Back to the Future: The New Spirituality of Joep Franssens

“Our new century is the most exciting time to be making and listening to music.” That’s the bold statement Frank J. Oteri makes in an article that appeared last week at NewMusicBox. He characterizes our hyper-connected twenty-first century world as a place where boundaries disappear. Here is an excerpt: For listeners, there’s more music to hear than ever before–and it’s happening all over the world. Of course, it always has, but nowadays, it’s not limited to …

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Art Under the Soviets: Shostakovich and the Music of the October Revolution

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. – Joseph Stalin Art and totalitarianism don’t mix. Dmitri Shostakovich’s uneasy coexistence with the Soviet authorities is one of music history’s most prominent examples of this axiom. Shostakovich’s relationship with the Soviets was full of contradictions. He produced numerous scores for Communist propaganda films (listen to the finale of The Fall of Berlin, …

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Steve Reich at 80

Monday marked the 80th birthday of American composer Steve Reich, who remains one of contemporary music’s most influential and iconic voices. Along with Terry Riley and Philip Glass, Reich was at the forefront of Minimalism, a style of music which emerged in the 1960s and is based on a strong rhythmic pulse, repeating patterns, and gradual, process-oriented change. (For what it’s worth, “minimalist” was a label Reich and other composers resisted). It’s …

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Remembering Sir Neville Marriner

Every great conductor started out as an accomplished instrumentalist. Look at the biography of Sir Neville Marriner, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92, and you’ll be reminded of this truism. In the 1950s, Marriner performed as a violinist in two celebrated orchestras: the Philharmonia and the London Symphony. For 13 years, he served as second violinist of the Martin String Quartet. He first picked up a baton around age 40. …

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